Altair is one of a mini-chain of two tea houses within walking distance of each other near to Astoria. Considering it’s named after the brightest star in its constellation, it’s pretty hard to spot from the street. An unremarkable tiny door with a small metal plate hides a steep staircase down into the basement of an old building. The feeling is very much Alice in Wonderland, and it doesn’t stop at the foot of the stairs.
You walk past the counter and around the corner, and are greeted with a rack of shoes—you can’t actually go in and sit down with your shoes on. After slipping your shoes off and looking around, you’ll see what looks an awful lot like a cat gym. Altair (and its sister, Sirius) don’t really have traditional tables and chairs, instead they have multilevel platforms, ladders, and nets to climb. Once you clamber your way into a free corner, you can prop yourself up against the wall with cushions, or lie out on your back. I’d love to be able to show you a picture, but the light is so low, and the angles so cramped, it really doesn’t do it justice.
The selection of teas is jaw-dropping. Although they don’t boast quite as many teas as Good Spirit Bar has whiskeys, their 70 different types should include a tea for every taste, including black teas, oolongs, green teas, as well as rooibos teas, fruit teas, and herbal teas.
Prices are generally very good—you order by the teapot, rather than per cup. You’ll get two and a half cups of tea per teapot for just under 800 HUF, which is perfect to share with someone else, or better, plan to spend a bit longer, and order a whole teapot for yourself.
The service comes with a smile (and a little wait), and watching the waiters swing from platform to platform is an amusing show. The environment is not a typical tea house/coffee shop feel—this isn’t really the place to bring a laptop and work, for example, and the temperature is more like a bedroom than an office, so if you’re planning on spending some serious time here, bring a book or a friend.